By Deborah Wroe
My name is Deborah and I am a newsletter junkie. When I come across a brand I like, I seek out their website, follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook and look for a newsletter sign-up on their website. More often than not the sign-up doesn’t say exactly what I am signing up for, i.e. monthly, weekly, daily, but what the heck, I can always unsubscribe.
My personal email inbox is full of shopping, discounts, daily deals, horoscopes and flight offer newsletters. My work email inbox is industry news, national and local news, association news, and newsletters from our clients and prospects.
Sometimes my 'fandom' is short lived; too many emails, too long copy, not really news at all, too many pictures or sometimes just a simple typo can lead me to hit unsubscribe. And that in itself can be a right royal pain if the unsub process is clumsy or multi-stage. I once unsubbed from a daily email from a leading brand, which was a hoop jumping kind of unsub process and to add insult to injury the final confirmation email told me I may to have wait 28 days to come off the list. Grrr.
So, what does make a good newsletter? Here is our 12 step programme
Accept that you need to send it out at a time when your customer would like to receive it, not when it’s convenient for you
Reflect on why you decided to send a newsletter and stick to your principles and core messages. Make it interesting for the reader, and relevant to what you do and the product or services you offer
3. Grammar and punctuation
Speak clearly. Double and triple check your spelling and grammar before hitting send
4. Subject line
Be mindful. Make sure your subject line has the click-thru factor, and make sure the reader knows it’s from you. Avoid trigger words that might get it caught in a spam trap
Respect your audience. Have the people on your list opted in? Have they asked for the newsletter? Don’t assume, explicitly ask for permission
Stick to your promise, if you state you will send a newsletter daily, weekly, monthly, honour that commitment, people will expect it. Same time, same day, regularly
7. Easy unsubscribe
Honour those that want to walk away. Easy in, easy out. Captchas are annoying – FACT. One click unsubscribes are not. If you are using a manual system make sure you honour the unsubs and take them off your list
Respect readers’ space. Don’t overload with large images (file size) that take an age to download. A lot of people access emails on the go, on smartphones and tablets. Sluggish, slow newsletters won’t cut it
9. Sent from address
Be open about who you are. There is no need for anonymity with your email address. You want readers to see who is sending them a newsletter. A user friendly email address looks much more appealing than a Xc5674GhCC7799BGO@xxxxxx.co.uk
10. Reply to address
Be open to feedback. Ideally your 'reply to' email should be the same as the 'sent from'. Think of the reader, not of your difficulty in managing the replies
11. Check your stats
Examine past behaviour. Do people open your newsletter? What are they clicking on? How do your open rates compare to industry norms?
12. Watch and learn
Learn from others. Seen a brand or business that you admire or connect with? Sign up to their newsletter and see how they do it
We send out a monthly newsletter to our clients and associates entitled, Vignettes from the Owlets. Would you like a copy? You can sign up here
By Liz Lancashire
At the end of last month, (February), Groupon’s chief executive announced his departure. He did it by way of a letter to his employees and colleagues, in it saying that he's OK with having failed.
Groupon was, and arguably still is, the 'go-to' site for consumers to nab amazingly cheap offers, and for retailers to offer sure-fire winning deals to get feet through the doors and bums on seats.
What Groupon does well is to give retailers a one-off high profile hit. It gets them in front of thousands of online readers, and (potentially) gets them a large volume of customers in the shop/salon/restaurant, with (potentially) an increase in orders or bookings (particularly at times that are difficult, or even costly, for the retailer to fulfil).
What Groupon, and other similar sites, don't do, is give the retailer any customer loyalty. The customer is not theirs, it's Groupon's, (irrespective of contract) and the customers will take advantage of the cheap manicure, thank you very much, then check Groupon again the following week for another cheap manicure. Not, (take note), a return visit to same salon, a return visit to Groupon. The customer loyalty lies with Groupon, not the retailer.
The retailer has to offer a massively discounted price (of which Groupon takes 35%), and has to be able to commit to a large number of offers. The model is built on volume of people, the stack it high, sell 'em cheap kind. But critics says this is unsustainable and easily copied, which it is.
Brief analysis of Groupon’s business model over; now back to the letter
. Mason admitted in his parting letter that he, that they (Groupon), had overlooked the importance and value of customer data, neglecting to find out what was really important to their customer. The statement is telling, and shows that Mason misunderstood who his customer was. His focus was on the consumer and giving them the best possible, cheapest deal, at the expense of HIS customers, the retailers. The retailers ended up unhappy and out of pocket, steam-rolled into providing loss-making deals. And when suppliers get hacked off and realise they're getting nothing from a deal, they shoot through, leaving an opening in the market for other deal sites to fill, with better rates and consumer intelligence for the retailer. And of course other ways of marketing their business.
This lack of understanding of the importance of data was mirrored in my own experience the other day. I received a sales call at the door from what I thought of as a nice small company, with a solid history and strong ethics. They wanted me to make an immediate purchase. They offered no incentive to buy and the deal was “If you don't like it you don't have to buy again.” – like I said, no incentive. I said I wouldn't make a decision to buy immediately but would happily provide my email address to be kept up to date with the brand. The sales chap didn't want it, and insisted that the business was built on direct sales, (since 1908), and that some of their customers have been with them for 50 or 60 years. He may never call on me again, and to be blunt, those customers of 50 or 60 years won’t be customers forever. History and heritage is all very well, but when it means you lose customers because of fear of change, it's time for a rebirth.
You can’t always provide exactly what your customers want but if you have opportunities right under your nose and don’t take them; like data that can inform the future direction of your business, provide insight in to what the customer wants, and back up your sales spiel; prospects who may well buy from you in the future if you give them an alternative method of buying and a way of staying in touch – you may stand less chance of sighing Sayonara.
By Deborah Wroe
In December 2012 Twitter announced it had surpassed 200 million monthly active users. Despite this massive growth Twitter still has its detractors……“I don’t have the time”, “I don’t care what Beyonce had for her breakfast”, “It’s just for kids”. And from the marketing community, “don’t put all your marketing eggs into one basket – go where your customers are”, “it's too difficult to measure”. With 200 million users worldwide, and 10 million of those in the UK, unless your product or service is very niche, your customers and/or potential customers are likely to be using Twitter.
Twitter is not a selling platform but it is a highly effective communication tool and customer service is where it really comes to the fore.
Consumers are becoming more savvy with social media and know they can elevate a query, issue or complaint by using social media, in a very public way. How you as a brand/company deal with it is also public and your reputation can be enhanced by a positive response.
I have had many positive encounters with local and national brands using social media. For example, an online order I placed with the Body Shop was missing an item. Their online form to report it crashed for me so I tweeted them. They followed me and over a couple of direct messages (DMs) the issue was resolved. I have one now with my energy supplier – unresolved so I won’t name names, but after lengthy telephone calls I resorted to Twitter and asked for someone to email me, which they did, within 24 hours.
And some not so good…a local takeaway which took an age to deliver, delivered luke warm food, and not great food at that. I politely tweeted them whilst waiting for the food, as I couldn’t get through on the phone, no reply. I politely tweeted them after the food had arrived stating my disappointment, no reply. I think I may have then tweeted again on a weekday during the day, again no reply. Yet they were tweeting out offers and plaudits, so were actively using Twitter, but blatantly ignoring me. I voted with my feet and have never used them again. Yet they had the opportunity to turn that around – and missed it #fail. Unless @ replies and DMs are treated as a priority, it is best not to use Twitter at all. Bad use of social media adds to the problem, good use can turn a negative into a positive.
We see many brands using social media to signpost rather than deal with issues, “Sorry about that, please phone our call centre”. This is not using social media effectively, it’s called fobbing off.
The person tweeting should be responsible for answering the query. They should be empowered to follow the complainer and deal with the issue by DM or telephone or email, and take it out of the public arena of Twitter. If necessary, add initials to the end of a tweet to show who is managing the account at the time.
Whether it’s you as a business owner tweeting, or a social media manager/PR agency tweeting on your behalf doesn’t matter (and is a whole other blog). What matters is getting it right and using Twitter effectively as an extension of your customer service team.
By Liz Lancashire
“Are you coming in for coffee?” - can mean more than an instant Nescafe, depending on how you choose to read it. Whether the person offering you the coffee is worth spending the time to find out the meaning of the question is entirely up to you, but if they phrase their questions cleverly they've a better chance of popping your pod of caffe crema in the machine.
Words can be extremely powerful. They can move people to tears, to fits of giggles, they can stir people to action, and they can help us to empathise. Think of a political party leader's speech or the exchange of thinly veiled threats between countries in conflict. A book of highly comedic value can see a person laughing like a lunatic on public transport, and a misspelt directional sign can cause ridicule rather than the obeying of rules.
Words, used cleverly, have the power to change people's attitudes and opinions. So for example, asking a question in a positive manner, i.e., “don't you find that it's always nice to take a winter holiday, yes?”, will most likely elicit a response in agreement. This is a fact that market researchers are well aware of and it is part of a researcher's code to avoid 'interviewer bias' to ensure that survey results are accurate. By asking a person a question in a positive, negative, or suggestive way, it can sway the outcome of the research.
A trick that illustrates the power of words and suggestion perfectly is the case of the 'particular animal of a particular colour in a particular country' (I'm not giving the game away, for anyone that doesn't know it). This numbers and words trick almost always leads people to the same conclusion, even though the answer could be absolutely anything. If you want to try it out you can find it here
Clever use of words is about seeing things as a glass half full rather than half empty. It's the difference between whether you failed to reach your target of £10k, or you managed to raise almost a whopping £10k! Whether a new container has an extra capacity of two litres, or it may be just a mere two litres bigger.
Issue and scheme are both words with negative connotations. “We have identified an issue and need to meet to discuss” doesn’t sound like someone wants to talk about the positives. Could it be that the ‘issue’ is an opportunity? A ‘scheme’ is also a devious and cunning plan, so might a better word be project, plan, programme? Use of the right words sets the tone and influences at the outset.
Adopting this theory is a mindset. A glass half full person has the ability to persuade, more than a glass half empty person. And every good copywriter knows how to harness this power, wouldn't you agree? (we can see you nodding :-) )
By Deborah Wroe
This year there have been a disproportionate number of major scandals and horrific stories, some very current, some that happened a long time ago but have only just come to light, and some that were referenced in @LizLancs
' blog post on saying sorry, Sorry seems to be the hardest word
. For me they have significantly raised the issue of ethics and morality across the board, in all aspects of society, and in business.
Yes I have seen Jerry Maguire, and no this is not my moral epiphany moment. This blog is not my 'mission statement', to be inevitably followed by stunned silence, maintaining a single demanding client, a keen assistant and a goldfish (if you haven’t seen the film, gloss over this part!), but I was heartened when I read the address from the Chair of the UK Marketing Society, Amanda Mackenzie http://www.brandrepublic.com/news/1162121/
It’s always reassuring when you learn you are not on your own, and I share her view that: "the marketing industry needed to be bolder to avoid being seen as 'the colouring-in department'" and urging marketers: “to 'show leadership' and question managerial decisions if they are uncomfortable with them.”
A business and its marketing function, (in-house marketers or external contracted marketers) have to have aligned goals and a shared vision. The fit has to be right. If the fit is not right, the marketing function will only ever be the ‘colouring in’ Mackenzie refers to, carrying out solutions devised outside of the marketing function rather than the marketing function advising and coming up with solutions to problems that provide success for all. Colouring in is simply being a yes man/woman and taking the money – not really ethical is it, or mutually rewarding?
Do you really want …..
- a social media company who buys followers on your behalf to inflate your online ego?
- a PR company who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word sorry?
- copywriters who farm out the work to ‘offshore’ cheap freelancers?
- strategists who are all talk and no results?
- marketers who look for quick returns whilst potentially damaging your reputation in the long-term?
- communications experts who talk at but don't listen to your customers?
- researchers who cherry pick evidence to back up a result rather than let the evidence determine the results?
Probably none of the above.
Don't be easy with your decision making and contract awarding, none of this, “you had me at hello” tripe (I don’t mean tripe in relation Jerry Maguire – I LOVE that line in the film). When it comes to working with a business; be choosy, raise the stakes, do your research, find the right company for you. Less of show me the money, and more of show me your credentials, and your moral compass, then the money will follow.
By Liz Lancashire
There's no going back, it's full steam ahead to Christmas now that the Christmas ads are on the telly box. As soon as M&S roll out the mince pies and brandy cream food porn, it lights the way for the rest of the country to put up the decs, start making lists, buying Christmas jumpers and making strange homemade cocktails from the Absinthe and Advocaat at the back of the drinks cupboard.
It always happens around the same time that the clocks go back. The dark nights coincide with the start of the Christmas ads and all of a sudden I'm pouring myself a Baileys and watching Groundhog Day.
The big players have all gone for different tactics this year. Tesco says it is aiming to promote a feeling rather than a festive season and wants to highlights the benefits of shopping at Tesco better than it has previously. So far it's dull, but perhaps a story will unfold.
The John Lewis ad debuted on TV during Derren Brown's Apocalypse on Friday 9th November, and is another epic production. It is the story of two 'snowpeople', the snowman going to the ends of the earth to find the perfect present. I get that it represents the joy of gift giving, but all I can think of when I see the ad is a tweet I read that suggested it perfectly represented the difficulty of maintaining a relationship at home while away on a gap year. I didn't write the tweet, I'm not laying claim to it, but it did make me laugh. However, the ad is still touching.
The John Lewis ad is in direct contrast to its counterpart, Waitrose. Waitrose has gone 'unglamorous', with no set, and Delia and Heston taking no fee for the ad. Instead Waitrose will donate £1M to good causes. A lovely sentiment, or manipulative if you're a cynic.
Also knocking glamour on the head this year is Asda (thought whether Asda has ever done glamour is debatable). The ad shows a stressed out mother facing the realities of Christmas including the present buying, the wrapping and the cooking, but the ad has received complains via the ASA for sexism. A bit harsh, and tweets from mums who believe it truly represents their own Christmas support my opinion.
If you've seen the Morrisons ad, you'll probably see the similarities to the Asda ad, but it uses far more mirth and humour. Both real and surreal, I'm sure the inspiration for the turkey scene came from Davis Lynch's freakshow film, Eraserhead. Despite giving me disturbed dreams, this is definitely a winner. A real laugh out loud hit.
Debenhams returns to the screens after a six year break from Christmas advertising with plans to position it in the John Lewis and M&S territory. And M&S has glammed it up by using Beyonce's Single Ladies video director Jake Nava. This year they've dumped the celebrities and are using models of all shapes and sizes, including Seb White, who has Down's Syndrome. And importantly Seb is not the star attraction in the ad, but just another member of the cast.
It will be interesting to see which retailers fair best when they announce their sales figures post season, but I can't help thinking Morrisons will do well for its weird but funny ad, and despite criticism for not connecting with its core shoppers, the 50+ woman, M&S is onto a winner.
That’s my view, what’s yours? Cast your vote in our just for fun Facebook poll
By Deborah Wroe
No, not according to Shakespeare*, but the Twittersphere.
If you are about to launch yourself on Twitter you need a name and although it’s not the most agonising marketing decision you will have to make it does need some thought. Grab it
– Claim your name quick before someone else does. Someone may have already started using your name – a parody account, fan account, or just a similar business name. Use of under scores, or numbers can remedy this, or at least give you something to work whilst you decide whether or not to try and claim back or work with the parody/fan account. Length matters
– choose too long a name and it will cut into other people's/organisations' ability to retweet (RT) you (what with having a 140 character limit). If people want to RT you and there isn’t enough room, they will abandon it. Trust me, I do it all the time. Great content can reach only a limited audience if you choose too long a Twitter name. Official?
– Hmm, not a fan to be honest. Official is more often than not used by non-official accounts, as a way of trying to claim ‘officialness’. A verified blue tick from Twitter is the only true way of determining that a celeb or brand account is ‘official’. Use of the word official is a poor man's, and often fake, blue tick. Steer clear of it in your name. Snuffletrumpsbabycakes
– if your Twitter account is purely for business and in line with your corporate tone then make sure your name also sets the tone. Other businesses are unlikely to take seriously any commentary from @Snuffletrumpsbabycakes Matching collars and cuff
– whatever your name make sure it is consistent across all your social media channels. Not necessarily the same, as each platform has its own rules, but consistent so that you can be found and are easily identifiable whether on Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus etc. Name change
– if you get it wrong, get bought out, rebrand, or change your mind you can change your name providing it’s available. I have been considering this for my personal account for ages. I cringe when people say it out loud, but it’s daft, it’s mine and I am sticking with it. But FYI it's not Bondy it's Bondi – as in beach.
* "What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet." Romeo and Juliet
We have a free guide for those new to Twitter, let us know
if you want a copy
By Liz Lancashire
There's been a lot of apologising going on lately, over some pretty emotive issues. The current government has apologised to the victims and the victims' families affected by the Hillsborough disaster. Grunenthal, the makers of the drug Thalidomide, used in 1970s for the treatment of morning sickness, has now issued an apology to the survivors and their families for the affects of the drugs (but stopped short of accepting full blame), and now Nick Clegg has apologised for his u-turn on student tuition fees.
In the case of Hillsborough and Grunenthal, it has taken them 23 years and around 50 years respectively to issue an apology. And only under heavy pressure and ongoing lobbying from those affected. Had it not been for the victims in both cases being proactive and persistent, the issues would have been swept under the carpet in the hope that people would forget with the passing of time.
When there's bad news looming, organisations often try and hide, keep a low profile and hope it's all swept under the carpet. Remember when Jo Moore, a Labour Party Press Officer so sensitively asked in an email to colleagues on 11 September 2001 if it would be a good day for burying bad news, namely the expenses scandal? Not surprisingly, shortly after the email was leaked to the press, she resigned.
Or take the saying, ‘there is no such thing as bad press’. Utter tosh we say. Mud sticks. Yes, people may be talking about your brand, but really is it going to drive up shares? Purchases? Brand advocates? Not likely. Trying to fly under the radar, using underhand or dirty tricks, or passing the buck won't wash.
When you have bad news to deal with, when you have made a mistake, don't hide it, or mislead or lie. Deal with it. Hold your hands up, say sorry. Say what you will do differently in future to prevent similar things happening again. Don't offer your regret, pass the blame to someone else's poor decision, or take 50 years to do it. Do speak as the voice of the whole company, and offer a full and sincere apology. A few stories about the good work you are doing would certainly help to give a more balanced view of your company and clean up your image too.
As I write, another apology has just been issued, this time from Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell for gategate, or plebgate. Oh and there's another just in. This one is from a Councillor for Erewash Borough, David Stephenson for his crass joke about shooting a policeman, to the wife of a serving policeman, a week after the two female Pcs were shot and killed in Hyde. It's starting to feel a bit like Groundhog Day...
By Deborah Wroe
Ah 10 days in Andalucia, the Lecrin Valley to be exact, deep in the Lecrin Valley, in fact right at the end of the valley, Albunuelas, the last stop, the end of the road, the back of beyond. Was it peaceful? Nope, what with the narrow streets and clippety clop of donkey hooves on cobbles, (40 donkeys apparently in the village) the early morning vans delivering bread, fish, fruit and beeping their very loud horns to announce their arrival and then at night the village kids being awake and noisy until very late after sensibly avoiding the midday heat and observing siesta. But, this we expected. We were under no illusions of a peaceful restful holiday with two boisterous kids in tow.
But the holiday started on a back hoof (donkeys – geddit), when Ryanair were on the hard sell, for three hours from Manchester all the way to Malaga. No slick enticing marketing for them, it was all about making a quick buck. It felt like every 10 minutes there was an announcement, which was in reality a selling opportunity. It was an assault on the senses, a captive audience being bombarded by the ‘lower your expectations’ airline.
We arrived jaded and hot and picked up the smallest hire car available, we had been pre-warned of the narrow streets. Our little car gave us freedom and flexibility and handled the small streets beautifully but struggled with the steep hills at the end of the valley. After reading about Bradley VII in the local press, the boys named our tiny hire car Wiggy to inspire it to climb the hills like an Olympian – it didn’t help.
Fast forward over devouring of best prawns ever, cold beers on a hot beach, waterfalls, and tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, to my point – signs.
Day six and I got stung by a jellyfish and it really rather hurt. Where were the danger signs? And I mean that literally not figuratively. If I had seen a sign saying jellyfish I would have gone nowhere near the sea. I am totally glossing over the previous day when a small child had pointed out ‘merluza’ (this is the word I heard) to me in the sea and I cockily passed on the news that there was a shoal of hake nearby. Back in the UK, consult dictionary. Spanish for jellyfish is ‘meduza’ - an easy rooky mistake, come on!) There were no warning signs, and after being stung, it suddenly struck us that very few people were in the sea and those that where had buckets and were catching the offending creatures (after they heard my scream). My sting had effectively been the warning sign it seems.
Back at the end of the valley later and we decided to eat out after my trauma. We went to a bar where we had previously only had a drink and some tapas. We wanted to spread the holiday love/Euro around the village. We got our drinks and tapas and I asked for ‘la carta’. This bar did do food, but did not have a printed menu. The owner told me she could cook whatever we wanted. I asked for a couple of things but she didn’t have them and said we could pre-order for the following day. That didn’t help us then, in the moment, hungry and ready to eat. We needed a menu, we needed a sign.
We had read online about a municipal pool in nearby Lanjaron. The beach had lost its appeal post jellyfish incident so we set off to find it. We crossed back and forth the quite small town and found nothing, nada, no signs at all. Eventually I asked someone and got directions. A left turn past a hotel off the main street took us up a steep hill, (Wiggy struggled on) and about 10 metres from the top of the hill was a small sign ‘piscina municipal’. At least we knew we were there, better late than never. Said pool was magnificent, high up in the Alpujarras (and only €1 entry), stunning views and lots of shade. Why would they not signpost it better?
If you make the best food in town don’t you want to provide the customer with a menu that makes them salivate? Often people don’t know what they want until they know it exists. If you have the best pool in the area, and presumably need to recoup the costs of the installation and maintenance of the pool, wouldn’t you want to provide a big, prominent sign? And if you are suffering from an apparently rare invasion of jellyfish to your shores shouldn’t you educate and inform to ensure tourists are not put off returning?
Don't push like the airline, but at least give some clues to your whereabouts or services. How on earth will people find you if not?
By Liz Lancashire
I'm pretty sure that we're all in agreement on how well we hosted the 2012 Olympic games. From the opening ceremony, to the individual sporting events, the friendliness and helpfulness of the volunteers, to the closing ceremony, heck even the weather held off in the main! But how does the spectacle translate into positive PR for Britain?
I sat down to watch the opening ceremony, anxious about what kind of show Danny Boyle (accomplished film director but newbie events director) would put on for us. But that anxiety was put to bed right at the start. I was transfixed, and am now of the belief that Mr Boyle should be crowned Sir Danny. It was clever and funny, maybe a tad too many 'in' jokes especially for us Brits, but overall it portrayed our national character accurately.
Our athletes were similarly fabulous, wining the biggest medal haul since 1908. Apparently their success was down to absolute attention to detail. The minutiae of their technique, holistic health, nutrition, and psychology were examined, meaning they truly were at the top of their game.
And isn't that what us Brits are known for? Our attention to detail. (Hence why we can actually put on a good show – think OTT pomp and ceremony of royal affairs).
Yes, G4S's security staff cock-up was not great, neither were the kind words of Mitt Romney on us not being ready, and the early empty seats debacle, but the staffing issue was rectified, the politician's doubts were unfounded, and the empty seats were quickly filled.
On the whole, the games have promoted Britain to the world as organised, funny quirky, friendly, efficient, good sports, and with a rich culture and history, as opposed to a bunch of down in the dumps, financially stretched, self-deprecating misery guts. Although the games are over, (well, the main ones) the benefits are yet to be fully realised with the tourism statistics yet to be released.
Internally, the games have increased national pride and made us realise we can be winners. And there's still excitement waiting for the Paralympics to begin. Channel Four have rightly promoted the athletes as superhuman rather than disabled, and the billboard ads stating ‘Thanks for the warm up” are pure genius.
Our natural self-deprecating nature means deep down, many people were secretly hoping for a bit of a farce (although Boris Johnson tried his best for us with his wire-dangling antics and dad dancing at the closing ceremony). But what the games has taught us is that winning and celebrating does feel better than botching up and sniggering about it. What is has taught the world is that Britain can pull it out of the bag and put on a first class, world class global show.